looking back

2018 went by in a flash (or so it seemed) as my family and I continued to settle into small-town life in the Finger Lakes of Central New York (CNY) after relocating from Arlington, VA in July 2017. Between shuttling our daughter to after-school dance lessons, and putting work into our 119 year-old house, I’ve also been in the midst of a career pivot, from almost two decades spent in media relations and communications to photography.

To this point, I haven’t made any effort to reflect on the year and/or provide a summary on what I have been up, but hopefully the following will rectify that.

Looking out at Skaneateles Lake from Thayer Park, just down the road from our house. Sometimes “working from home” means sitting on the ground, and leaning against a tree next to the Lake.

Looking out at Skaneateles Lake from Thayer Park, just down the road from our house. Sometimes “working from home” means sitting on the ground, and leaning against a tree next to the Lake.

All in all, things went well last year:

  • After working with some wonderful photo clients in the Washington, DC-area, I was quickly able to generate new ones in-and-around Skaneateles, particularly those looking for family photos and other lifestyle work.

  • Cold-pitching and networking led to contract work with a number of new, commercial clients, including: Fox Run Vineyards; AP Intego; The Child Center of New York; The Skaneateles Education Foundation; Farmer Street Pantry; and Patience Brewster, Inc.

  • I continued to work as a contract freelancer for Advance Media New York, the parent company of Syracuse.com and The Post-Standard. A new sports editor sent more work my way than the was the case in 2017, as I continued to photograph high school athletics, primarily football and ice hockey. Having been issued media credentials by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), I hope to continue doing more work in 2019 across Section 3.

  • I remain a member of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), and also joined the Professional Photographers Society of CNY, both in an effort to continue with my professional development.

  • I was fortunate and grateful to see some of my photography featured in juried exhibitions across New York state, from the Seward House Museum in Auburn, to the Davis Orton Gallery in Hudson.

I photographed professional ice hockey; political protests; snowstorms; senior portraits; fundraisers; headshots; weddings; engagements; parades; newborns; urban jungles; winemakers; Broadway stars; food products; goofy kids, and more. I did a little bit of everything, and that’s exactly what I wanted.

There were a few bumps in the road, including a few of my own creation. I worked with a client where, in hindsight, it was clear I wasn’t the right kind of photographer required for the job. I was almost unable to complete a photo assignment because the gear I’d rented/needed was not delivered on time. I was not as proactive in my marketing efforts as I should have been, and continue to work on building my confidence with respect to promotion of self and services. There were also one or two clients who, well… just weren’t the best clients in the end. But these things are normal, in any profession or line of work. If anything, I’ve been both fortunate and blessed to deal with people whom, by-in-large, have been friendly, professional, and a pleasure to work with; I’ve been humbled by their thanks and support.

Through both the successes and challenges I have learned a lot in a short amount of time, not only from a technical standpoint, but interpersonal as well. The variety of work, and the diversity of people I encounter in my new career echoes much of what I most appreciated about my time at Harvard. Whether it’s talking with a 3 year-old girl about princesses prior to a family session, or getting a chemistry lesson from a reformed punk turned winemaker, I have always gotten a kick out of meeting new people and hearing their stories; 2018 was no different.

My hopes for 2019 are much the same: to continue learning, meet new people, develop my services, and expand my business. A good step in that direction came last month when I finally completed the process of “professionalizing” my photography work with the formation of One Six Nine Creative, a limited liability company (LLC) as recognized by the New York State Department of State. I plan on continuing to do business as Whitney Images, and am in the process of exploring funding and banking options to help me better formalize the business side of things, from the purchase of new equipment (hopefully), to getting insurance squared away (definitely).

It’s still quite new and a bit scary at times - especially the lack of consistent income - but I’m grateful for the patience and support of loved ones as I see where this new effort takes me. Any number of years ago I was the gatekeeper who issued credentials to photojournalists or watched photographers on the sidelines; now I am that photographer on the sidelines and I’m the one engaging gatekeepers in an effort to secure credentials. The irony is not lost on me, and I suspect a few photographers I’ve worked with are having a chuckle at that.

Overall, I’m in a pretty good place, and while it will take some time to get to where I want to be with respect to my photography, I’m pretty happy with how far I’ve come in a relatively short amount of time. Hopefully the coming year(s) will allow me continued personal and professional growth, with new clients, new adventures, and the right perspective to best help me see these through. So, if you’re looking for a photographer in the coming year, from CNY to NYC and beyond, I’m available for hire :-).